Course Descriptions

Students in the Master of Social Work program will complete 66 credits for the traditional plan of study or 33 for advanced standing. Each term comprises two eight-week mini sessions of intensive instruction, providing a manageable balance of coursework and field education.

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Generalist Curriculum

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Individuals and Families Domain

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Generalist Curriculum

SWGS 6040 – Integrating Human Rights and Justice in Practice (3 credits)

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Every person, regardless of position in society or geographic location, has fundamental human rights, such as freedom, safety and security, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. This course introduces students to how social workers may conceptualize the global intersections and interconnections of justice, equality, and human rights. Students are introduced to an integrated practice framework that promotes human rights and justice and identifies the root causes of global social issues. They will explore theories that address human need; social, economic, and environmental justice; intersectionality; diversity; and oppression and discrimination. In this course, students learn how to recognize the extent to which a culture’s structure and values, including social, economic, political, and cultural exclusions, may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create privilege and power. Students learn to engage in advocacy to advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice domestically and internationally.

SWGS 6320 – Social Work Practice with Organizations and Communities (3 credits)

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This course uses a generalist framework to prepare students for direct social work practice with organizations and communities. Learners explore the theories, knowledge, and fundamental skills necessary to practice successfully with organizations and communities. Students will learn the multiple phases of practices from engagement through termination. Students will be introduced to the ethical and legal obligations that guide social work practice with organizations and communities.

SWGS 6305 – Social Work Skills Lab (3 credits)

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This skill-based course is anchored in the knowledge base of generalist social work practice. Students will develop competency in performing essential social work skills via simulations, role-plays, and peer activities. These skills will be practiced in relation to vulnerable client systems, including individuals, families, and small groups within communities and organizations. Case scenarios developed for this course will focus on client diversity (e.g., age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic and citizenship status, etc.). The emphasis will be on student performance in using the engagement and intervention skills with clients who are marginalized and disadvantaged. This course provides the opportunity for students to actively engage in learning generalist practice skills through demonstration, reflection, small-group activities, and self and other assessments. Instructors will provide feedback and coaching to help students achieve the course objectives.

SWGS 6323 – Social Work Practice with Individuals Across the Lifespan (3 credits)

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This course uses a generalist framework to prepare students for direct social work practice with individuals. Learners explore the theories, knowledge, and fundamental skills necessary to practice successfully with individual clients. Students will learn the multiple phases of practices from engagement through termination. Students will be introduced to the ethical and legal obligations that guide social work practice with individuals.

SWGS 6005 – Contemporary Social Welfare Policy (3 credits)

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Students will learn that human rights and justice drive social welfare policies and their implementation at the international, federal, state, and local levels. The course introduces students to the underlying values, assumptions, and philosophical perspectives that have influenced the development of the U.S. social welfare system and its goals, policies, and programs. Students will learn about policy formulation, analysis, and the role of social work in policy development and implementation within their practice settings at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. The course introduces students to the historical, social, cultural, political, economic, organizational, environmental, and global influences that affect social policy.

SWGS 6324 – Social Work Practice with Families and Groups Across the Lifespan (3 credits)

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This course uses a generalist framework to prepare students for direct social work practice with families and groups. Learners explore the theories, knowledge, and fundamental skills necessary to practice successfully with families and groups. Students will learn the multiple phases of practices from engagement through termination. Students will be introduced to the ethical and legal obligations that guide social work practice with families and groups.

SWGS 6803 – Applied Social Work Research and Evaluation (3 credits)

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This course introduces students to social work research. It focuses on the scientific method from the process of developing knowledge to critically evaluating research. Students will learn about formulating a research question; research methodology, including study design, sampling, measurement, and data collection methods; ethical issues in research; and understanding how to read and understand research reports and publications.

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Specialist Curriculum

During the specialist phase, students must take at least one course from each of the four domain areas below. Please note that the SWGS 6440 course does not fall within a domain and is required for all Advanced Standing students.

SWGS 6440 – Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis (3 credits)

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This course builds on the skills, values, knowledge, and processes of the generalist curriculum, serving as a bridge between generalist and advanced assessment theory and practice. Specifically, the course extends the person-in-environment assessment perspective of Generalist Practice with the addition of more intensive assessment of the individual’s inner world, including psychodynamic conflicts processes and ego defenses. The course is entitled “Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis” rather than “Psychopathology” to remind students that clinical assessment need not lead to a diagnosis of mental illness. The course covers practitioner self-awareness, the relationship between mental health and mental illness, risk and resilience, bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment, a strength-informed cooperative assessment process, a critical use of the DSM-5, and major types of mental illnesses and their evidence-supported treatments.

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Organizations and Communities Domain

Evaluation Domain

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Individuals and Families Domain

SWGS 6416 – Advanced Integrated Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups (3 credits)

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This clinical course furthers generalist practice with experience in the use of evidence-based and evidence-informed practice that responds to major mental health concerns. A focus will be developing competence in the effective use of self in applying brief treatment modalities that include skills in working with the change process, crisis intervention, interpersonal therapy, and solution-oriented approaches. An introduction to working with clients who have experienced trauma will include the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral models to support the use of advanced clinical skills. Students will develop client service plans based on the selection of appropriate theories, intervention models, and evidence-informed interventions, including psychoeducation. Students will gain experience as reflective and collaborative practitioners utilizing a practice orientation that attends to human rights and social justice for diverse individuals, families, groups, and communities.

SWGS 6426 – Cognitive and Behavioral Social Work Practice (3 Credits)

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This course focuses on the theory and practice of cognitive behavioral social work. Several common problems of children, adolescents, and adults are examined, including aggression, depression, and anxiety disorders. Techniques that effectively treat these problems such as cognitive reframing, behavior modification, assertiveness training, stress management, the use of homework and bibliotherapy, and the evaluation of practice will be introduced.

SWGS 6439 – Evidence-Based Practice for Children and Families (3 Credits)

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This course may be taken after successfully completing Fieldwork and Integrative Seminar I.

SWGS 6403 – Family Oriented Treatment (3 Credits)

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This course provides an introductory overview of major themes of family intervention. The approach is eclectic and integrates theory and practice. The styles of Ackerman, Satir, Minuchin, Bowen, and others are emphasized.

SWGS 6417 – Practice: Abusers of Alcohol and Other Drugs (3 Credits)

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This course examines the diagnostic and treatment implications for social work practice with alcoholics and those dependent on other drugs. Addictions are viewed from a bio-socio-psychological perspective. The diverse roles of the social worker are emphasized.

SWGS 6436 – Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents (3 Credits)

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This course will use a case analysis format to introduce students to the common concepts underlying evidence-based treatment for traumatized children and adolescents. Trauma is broadly defined and includes children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events including, but not limited to, natural disasters, war, abuse and neglect, medical trauma, witnessing interpersonal crime (e.g., domestic violence), and other traumatic events. The course will highlight the role of development, culture, and empirical evidence in trauma-specific interventions with children, adolescents, and their families. It will address the level of functioning of primary caregiving environments and assess the capacity of the community to facilitate restorative processes.

SWGS 6471 Palliative Social Work (3 Credits)

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This course prepares social workers for basic clinical skills in providing palliative care to individuals who are seriously ill or at end of life and their families. This course covers: the historical, medical, legal, fiscal, and ethical context of palliative care; settings and models of palliative care delivery; the role of the social worker on the interdisciplinary palliative care team; clinical skills, including communication with persons with serious illness, their family members, interdisciplinary team members, and other service providers; assessment and supportive counseling; goals of care, advance care planning, and shared decision-making; palliative care across the life cycle; the social work role in pain and symptom management; cultural dimensions of palliative care; spirituality in palliative care; challenging ethical issues; self-care; and the future of palliative social work.

SWGS 6418 Social Work Practice in Schools (3 Credits)

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This course focuses on the knowledge, values and skills appropriate for social work practice within the school setting. Understanding of the school context and its politics is highlighted. Special attention is given to working with students, teachers, parents and administrators as well as on interfacing with the community. Emphasis is placed on the tasks of social assessment for educational planning, the formulation of goals and objectives,record keeping, accessing school resources and external referrals. Theoretical approaches include problem solving, crisis and role theory, play therapy, brief treatment and group treatment.

SWGS 6442 Social Work Practice and Integrated Behavioral Health Care (3 Credits)

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This course, designed for people in their specialist year, prepares students for the direct practice of integrated behavioral health in primary care and other health care settings. Students will become knowledgeable of the roles of behavioral health providers working in health care settings, theories and models of care delivery, and systemic and cross-cultural issues affecting health and health outcomes. Building upon core competencies from generalist practice, students will develop skills in engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation in integrated health care. In addition, students will develop social work competencies necessary for supporting patients across a range of health conditions and health care settings and effective interprofessional practice. The importance of ethics and collaborating with individuals, families, and the health care team will be underscored.

SWGS 6443 Suicide Assessment & Treatment (3 Credits)

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Most social workers will encounter suicidal clients more than once in their careers. While suicide is the ultimate act we wish to avoid, practitioners must also intervene with non-fatal suicidal behaviors that occur with higher frequency. These include suicidal ideation or thoughts; suicidal verbalization, often in the form of suicide threats; intentional self-harm; and suicide attempts. Research on suicidal behavior now indicates that non-fatal suicidal behaviors are often most effectively reduced via systematic focus and specialized intervention strategies. Understanding the risk factors for and protective factors against suicide is a critical step in this process. A more nuanced understanding of which specific risk and protective factors are relevant for an individual client based on their age, gender, and ethnicity is yet another critical step in arriving at an accurate evaluation of risk. Equally important is to understand how to implement interventions to reduce suicidal behavior. It is the goal of this course to provide the fundamental knowledge needed to conduct an evidence-based suicide risk assessment with clients and to utilize evidence-based practices targeting suicidal behavior. This class will prepare beginning practitioners to assess and manage the clinical risks associated with suicidal behavior as well as expose them to the most recent empirical research advances in treating suicidal behavior.

SWGS 6472 Grief, Loss and Bereavement (Individuals Groups and Families Domain)

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This course will investigate: the theoretical framework(s) for understanding grief, loss and bereavement; review multiple experiences/ definitions of grief; address the impact of both culture and religion on the grief experience; review complicated and uncomplicated grief in adults; and address the basics of childhood and adolescent grief. The course will also introduce various counseling intervention techniques, and present a sample of complementary and cognitive focused interventions.

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Individuals and Families Domain

Organizations and Communities Domain

Evaluation Domain

Policy Practice and Advocacy Domain

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Organizations and Communities Domain

SWGS 6622 – Advanced Integrated Practice with Organizations and Communities (3 credits)

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This course prepares social work practitioners who operate within and through frameworks of human rights; empowerment practices; and social, economic, and environmental justice. Learners will be trained to engage in social change at all levels of society in order to become social workers who are committed to equity in all forms. By cultivating advanced community and organizational practice skill development, the course focuses on transforming and enhancing capacities in communities and organizations through inclusive and collaborative strategies while increasing access to resources, innovations, and collaborations. A multidimensional model of organizational and leadership practice within a macro practice lens is used to organize and integrate theories, research, and content. Emphasis is on learning to implement changes within macro-level contexts that is consistent with social work values, human rights, social justice, and equity.

SWGS 6605 – Community Organization (3 Credits)

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This course provides a history of community organizing, especially in the context of the social work profession and as a way of meeting the needs of vulnerable and at-risk populations and communities. Focus is on the various community organizing models and the array of roles and functions of community organizers. Emphasis is on practice strategies and tactics for assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating community organizing projects and campaigns.

SWGS 6625 – Fundraising (3 Credits)

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A significant portion of work in the social welfare arena involves the nonprofit sector, which depends on philanthropic resources and public funding to function and survive. Resource development in the nonprofit sector relates to every dimension of social work practice. On a micro level, funding supports the direct services provided by social workers and other human service professionals. On a macro level, organizational administrators and community leaders collaborate with foundations and other philanthropic entities to support organizational, community, and societal change. This course introduces students to resource development and stewardship via two predominant channels: fundraising and grant making. The course emphasizes supporting the well-being of vulnerable populations. In addition to the development of foundational knowledge and concrete skills, the course conceptualizes philanthropy and fundraising within the framework of human rights, social justice, and the NASW Code of Ethics.

SWGS 6615 – Supervision and Staff Development (3 Credits)

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This course examines supervision and staff development as management functions in diverse agency settings and within the context of social work values and ethics. The philosophy, functions, principles, and methods of supervision—as well as staff development and training—are covered. Emphasis is given to the knowledge and skills required to motivate and retain an effective and multicultural workforce and to effectively supervise varying levels of staff (volunteers, nonprofessionals, professionals) during turbulent times.

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Evaluation Domain

SWGS 6814 – Advanced Integrated Practice Evaluation and Research (3 credits)

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This course focuses on intervention and program evaluation research. Students will develop skills in designing evaluation strategies to provide evidence for practice. The course will include how to critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate interventions and program processes and outcomes. Application of findings to improve practice effectiveness at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels will be discussed.

SWGS 6806 – Program Evaluation (3 Credits)

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The use of evaluative research in social welfare planning, program development, and theory building are examined. Recent evaluations of social work practice, including interventions on a social policy, neighborhood, family, and individual level, are reviewed. Traditional research designs are considered, but emphasis is placed on emerging models of evaluation. Course is appropriate for students preparing for direct service practice.

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Policy Practice and Advocacy Domain

SWGS 6702 – Advanced Integrated Policy Practice (3 credits)

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This advanced policy practice course builds on the competencies acquired in the foundation year. The course introduces a rights-based approach to policy practice and advocacy. Using human rights principles, students will learn how to use specific policy analysis frameworks to plan for and develop advocacy strategies that facilitate social change. Students will learn and apply specific advocacy skills, addressing policy issues in community, organization, and legislative settings.

SWGS 6705 – Comparative Social Policy and Advocacy (3 Credits)

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This course explores the similarities and differences among helping systems in the United States and other societies. This includes consideration of historical, economic, political, and social forces that influence the nature and functioning of those systems. Other topics covered include social development and the globalization of social problems.

SWGS 6624 – International Social Development in a Global Context (3 Credits)

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This course aims to expand students’ understanding of the global context and to equip students to work with diverse communities locally or internationally. International social development increasingly becomes the core component of change, hence the essence of social work as a profession with international coherence and global reach. As small communities everywhere are part of a larger machinery affecting the social and economic tapestry of the world, it is crucial for social work professionals to gain a better understanding of significant global issues and to be prepared to engage in global social development as agents of change. The course will focus on enhancing students’ skills in the areas of community building, community needs assessment and capacity mapping, community organizing, stakeholder analysis, and advocacy. The course is designed around the following themes: (1) international social development and social work’s theoretical perspectives and the roles of a social worker in the global context; (2) globalization, global issues, and the consequences of these issues for communities and their residents from an international perspective; (3) human rights and the implications of choosing to become an agent of change from a human rights perspective; and (4) international social development’s current approaches, best practices, and future trends. This is an administrative elective.

SWGS 6715 Health Care Policy and Advocacy (3 Credits)

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This advanced policy practice course builds on the competencies students acquire in their generalist year. The course focuses on health care policies and advocacy and expands upon the rights-based approach to policy practice in health care. Students will actively participate in analyzing existing disparities in health and health care and the causes of these disparities by reviewing the evolution and interactions of federal, state, local government, and private policies. The course will address the current system and its challenges and opportunities, highlighting the importance of affordability, accessibility, quality, and availability. Students will learn to apply rights-based advocacy skills, addressing policy issues in community, organizational, and legislative settings.

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Generalist Curriculum

Specialist Curriculum

Individuals and Families Domain

Organizations and Communities Domain

Evaluation Domain

Policy Practice and Advocacy Domain

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